The winter holidays bring tremendous opportunities, along with a set of challenges that are greater this year than ever. The traditional Thanksgiving-Christmas Day shopping season is six days shorter. Customer expectations keep rising. Competition is heating up, as is the pressure to hit ROI and sales goals.
How can you capitalize on the opportunities and stay ahead of the challenges? An email marketing strategy tune-up that uses four engagement-building tactics.
Make your emails more action-worthy
You don’t have to overhaul your email program to create standout email messages. Instead, build on what you already have.
Use your data in creative new ways to make your messages more relevant and valuable to your customers. That gets your emails noticed, opened and acted on!
1. Target and engage inactive customers in your loyalty program.
These aren’t your garden-variety inactive customers. They cared enough about your brand to join your loyalty program, but they haven’t purchased lately or opened or clicked on your emails. They need more than a garden-variety “We missed you” email message.
The typical inactive-engagement strategy usually segments out non-responders, sends an incentive to lure them back, and lops off anybody who doesn’t act. Your VIPs deserve better because you have more data on them, like behavior, preferences, purchases and demographics.
Use that data to spotlight loyalty members who haven’t purchased or redeemed rewards during a logical time cycle based on your customers’ typical buying habits. Personalize the email with points earned, points needed to move up to a higher membership level or rewards waiting to be redeemed.
Sears sends this notification to shoppers in its Freecash Rewards program. It covers all the bases needed to prompt lapsing customers to return and shop again – how much customers have to spend, the different reward tiers and how to use the reward.
Like what you see? Find more real-life examples of innovative revenue-driving tactics in our holiday email lookbook!
2. Add package-tracking data to promotional emails.
Customers value shipping notifications because they want to know where their packages are and when to expect delivery. But most brands send only one notification email, and that message usually diverts customers to a third-party shipping site to find the information.
Real-time tracking information in a promotional email keeps customers up to date and in your email (and gives them a reason to come back to it time and again!). Add a special marketing message that moves them back to your site. The more personalized the offer, the better!
This Evine shipping notice includes the company’s web navigation in the message, which can spur the customer to click on a tab that catches their attention.
3. Use email to help customers succeed.
How will you hit your sales goal for the year? Not just by pounding your customers with the same offers everyone else is sending. (And what are they sending? Lots of 20% and 50% discounts during the holidays, according to email database MailCharts.)
Put the customers at the center of your emails instead, and give them information that will help them shop successfully.
“Customer Experience Email Marketing helps you navigate the delicate balancing act between customer and company goals,” email expert Kath Pay says in Customer Experience Email Marketing: Getting Ahead of the Consumer, a research paper produced with Liveclicker.
“You achieve your goals by helping your customers to achieve theirs. The result is a mutually beneficial relationship with the potential to endure into loyalty.”
What do your customers want to know?
- • Store hours that change throughout the holiday season
- • How to buy complex products
- • Shipping deadlines
- • Customer service contacts
- • Return/exchange policies
- • Gift card purchases
- • Nearest location using real-time geolocation
Put all that information into a special holiday planning guide, and send it just before your first major email campaign launches. Then, repeat it one topic at a time – return/exchange policies in one message, shipping deadlines in another – in your promotional emails.
This email from Online Shoes appeals to last-minute shoppers with shipping deadlines and shop-by-category links that let shoppers zero in on what they want. The countdown timer prompts customers to act, and the 25% discount sweetens the deal.
4. Nail down the basics – and don’t forget to say “Thanks for a great year!”
If you’re like most retail marketers, your email program is about to head into the most stressful time of the year. These four steps will help you shore up your foundations:
- • Assess your email list’s health. Work with an email verification or validation service that can ferret out duplicate, outdated or deliverable-but-risky addresses.
- • Ramp up email acquisition. Add a benefit-based opt-in invite anywhere your customers bump up against your brand: interior pages on your website, social media, search landing pages and in stores.
- • Test and update all content templates. Check that all links work, the branding is current, and your templates render correctly across devices, operating systems (iOS, Android, etc.) and browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari).
- • Say “Thanks!” Before you launch into your year-end clearance emails, send just one more holiday-themed message. Thank your customers for their patronage over the last year. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a few heartfelt lines, maybe over your CEO’s signature.
Some brands send their holiday greetings without an offer or any other path to purchase. Others include subtle ways to convert.
The email below, from American Eagle, combines several tactics: a prominent holiday greeting, links to popular spots on the website and an invitation to join the loyalty program below the greeting.
You also could include a link to your preference center, invite subscribers to create or update a profile and emphasize the benefit as AE does with its loyalty program invite:
Want more ideas to build engagement that drives sales during the holidays? Download our newest guide: 9 Solutions (With Real-Life Examples!) to Retailers’ Biggest Holiday Email Headaches (there’s a UK version too!).